tv [untitled] April 29, 2012 9:30pm-10:00pm EDT
that does not happen. people other copy the records and take them along to write memoirs. not mcnamara. when it was over, he left and it was over. the second and another question that was raised was about the joint chiefs of staff. the story is that following mr. mcnamara's testimony before congress and the failure of the air war against north vietnam and august of 1967, the joint chiefs gathered in the chairman's office. generalarily wheeler and discussed among themselves whether they should resign in protest. there problems with the story and wheeler was not in the country. he was in germany on official business and shortly after general wheeler returned to the united states, he suffered a heart attack.
then he was in walter reed. the only two chiefs who were asked about this dismissed it in crude terms and wheeler himself later told the president that there had never been such a meeting. that is about as far as i can go with that controversial story. as secretary brown alluded to, we associate this period with mcnamara and vietnam. mcnamara's involvement in a series of other crisis foreign and domestic is remarkable. we have heard about the dominican republic and mideast war and the pueblo and demonstrations in the streets of the united states. any one of the crisis could have defined a presidency. for example, if we look at president jimmy carter's
administration, it involved notable successes. it is best remembered for the iranian hostage issue. when the iranians took over the american embassy in tehran and held hostage. americans for more than a year. think about mcnamara. in january 1968 the north korean seized the naval vessel on the high seas and they held a naval crew hostage for more than a year before releasing them. yet the pueblo is a mere footnote to the events of 1968. robert mcnamara was involved as a major participant. we all know that. what is remarkable is he knew the details and the specifics of what was going on. in an interview once, i asked
him how he could keep all of this turmoil straight in his mind. he looked as if i were deranged and said it's simple. you compartmentalize them and deal with them individually. i wonder now if dealing with this affected his view of the interrelationship to the whole u.s. policy. i don't know the answer, but i wonder about it these days. both secretary brown and professor herring alluded to clark clifford. clifford saw the role as convincing president johnson to get out of vietnam. clifford was convinced that the american adventure was draining the economy and threatening to
reduce the united states to the second class economic power is very, very concerned that that was a true strength of the united states and not the military might. in order to ka joel johnson day and night, he let his deputy run the department of defense. it was everything to strategic arms. the only time he actually made a decision about the budget and strategic arms, he managed to mess up a nuclear submarine program that he had to go to clean up. clifford was successful in convincing johnson that it was a losing battle and it was time to call an end to escalation and reduce the american commitment to vietnam.
both secretary brown and herring alluded to mcnamara's brilliance. george bundy who served with mcnamara. he is the ablest man in government. when he makes a basic decision and gets up ahead of steam, he doesn't always keep the sharpest eye out for new evidence. others of us who had been more alert than we were to guard against this one weakness of this extraordinary man. he made his decisions after marshalling the available facts. normally quantifiable data and statistics. he believed that the more facts or information that you gathered or collected, the better you
could reduce risk. if we recall at least in abbreviated form, the race is not to the twist or the battle to the strong. but time and chance happened to them all. time and chance happened to robert mcnamara too. thank you very much. >> you put your own book in context. the english man of letters sent with johnson once wrote the business of the scholar is to think in solitude and speak in public. i believe we have been fortunate
today to have three scholars what they felt in solitude in a public way that is on this stage. we owe them a lot and join me in thanking them. we are at a point where you can be on the question and answer session. we have mikes set up on each side. we would like you to be at the mike and collect your question to whoever you wish. sir? >> thank you. any person on the panel can handle this. one of the world's leadingest authors on vietnam was a man named bernard who lived a 20-minute drive from the
pentagon. why did mcnamara and his colleagues never bother to talk to him other than they never said what they wanted to hear? >> that story, there is a story about that. one time when they -- i think it was in 63 or maybe 64. they were agonizing over vietnam and i think mcnamara may have been the person who suggested that expertise was needed and someone actually suggested that fall who was in at howard university would be the ideal person and eventually in the context that is not that clear to me. eventually at least according to the stories i have heard and sms something somebody told in a
memoire that they were skeptical about falling because he was french. this may have been a time -- that's the story. i am just repeating the story that was told. they went to an english journalist, pj honey, i think, who had written extensively on vietnam and i think i know whether he was in the united states at that time or not. that is the story i heard and the only story i know of. >> this is directed at all three of them. what do you think would have happened had not kennedy been killed? >> the inevitable question. who wants to jump on that one? i got the easy one. >> i am going to try to be brief
about it. it was a question that particularly when the movie jfk was hot. they came up at every forum came up and it didn't matter. i only in receipt years have be fun to conclude that he might have -- i don't buy into the withdrawal business. withdrawal was so conditioned and so specific to the time it was created. he knew and his brother was pushing for the united states to scale back. the thing that strikes you about kennedy over and over again, from 1961 on up to november 63. he has this powerful aversion to
sending combat troops. now that doesn't tell us what he would have done if he were faced with the situation they actually faced in 63 or worse in 64. as early as the fall of 61, mcnamara and bundy and all of them are pushing for combat troops. kennedy draws the line on that. could he have continued to? we will never know the answer to that. the other side that i insist in talking about this, it's whatever he might have done, kennedy left johnson a much, much worse situation than eisenhower had left kennedy. kennedy took office there with a small number of advisers by the
time kennedy leaves office, there is 16,000 and they are no longer advisers. they are taking part in combat. the situation has changed with the coup, the united states assumes a level of responsibility for vietnam had it not had before. you have to scores. >> i think for all the reasons, the answer to the question is unknowable. kennedy actually in his public statements said things that can be interpreted either way. >> i think had he lived, he would have made it a popular war. i agree with what george was saying that the continues changed so much, i agreed with it about the notion of not committing troops and he also
had that rhetorical flair and whatever charisma and the leadership that he could probably make decisions that johnson was terrified about making. for instance, calling the reserves, johnson was absolutely terrified. they wrote their congressman and said what am i wasting my time for? johnson was a politician and he asked his mentors in the senate. what should i do? i don't want to do this. it's personality and the times changing and it's a different situation. making it popular would not make it winnable. >> and indeed johnson did, i think, get advice from his
mentor, senator russell who really was arguing against it and at some point said if you are in it, you have to keep going. >> let's go to this side. >> i would like to challenge politely doctor brown's claim that mcnamara was a great success in his first four years. did he alienate the joint chiefs and the f 11 and they were right and wrong. dr. brown. that deserves a lengthy answer. is it the function of a secretary of defense and the primary function to be popular with his subordinates?
i think not. i think most of them in the end respected him. in the case of admiral anderson, the admiral was not nominated for a second term. the reason had nothing to do with the tfx. it had to do with a cuban missile crisis. during the time that soviet ships were sailing towards cuba, perhaps with reinforcements, admiral anderson decided he was in command. that of course is quite contrary to the statutes of the united states. the chief of naval operations despite his title is not in charge of the operations.
anderson did not realize that or chose to ignore it. when mcnamara went to the operations center and asked what the navy was doing,ed admiral said why don't you leave and let me run this operation? that speaks for itself. had the subordinate of admiral anderson said that to him, dismissal would have been the least of the consequences. did mcnamara occasionally tangle with individual military people? in many ways i think his arguments with the general under whom he served during world war ii were more consequential and
more substantive, but in the end, the secretary of defense in the chain of command has as his function not to be popular among his subordinates, but to do the right thing. >> over there? >> thank you. we talked about a rational budgeting process, one of mcnamara's claim to fame. i wonder if any of the panelists, perhaps secretary brown more than others could help me with a rational budget and take some and how do you think about that with china spending $160 billion or 5.5% of the noble share of military expenditures and the u.s. spending $739 billion, 45.7% of
the global share. how do i, a concerned citizen think about that and the process of what's rational in today's world? >> i will comment on it briefly. it's a complicated and fundamental subject in question. the question is, and you have to base it on on what you think the united states needs to do for its own security and what the effect would be on the rest of the world if the united states had a different attitude towards the security. especially the united states underwrites world security. that gets us in a lot of trouble often. we overreach and i personally favor a lighter hand. but the united states has global responsibilities. it can choose and in the past has chosen on occasion to deny
those responsibilities and let the world go its way. the consequences have generally been negative. you can also point out that when we have not let the world go its own way, there have been negative consequences to. there is an intermediate position and that's the that i would try to find. the details of the budget are such that you can argue with a lot of the individual pieces of it. and our budget has not done the same way as other countries do theirs. health care is about $60 billion of the defense budget. in other countries, that is not in the defense budget. i am talking about not only
active duty people and families and everything else, but the health care system is outside of the defense budgets in other countries. another way of looking at it is this. the defense budget of the united states is now -- 5% or will be 4% of the gross domestic product. in the good old days of 1950s it was about 8 #%. so in some sense defense has become a lesson. you can compare it with alternatives. you can compare it with health care. health care is 20% of the gross national product. there is no right number, is the answer. what the defense needs and our international obligations and
things we do that can produce almost any number you want, depending on what you think those rirpts, those obligations, those dangers are. in fact, inevitably it's largely a product of past decisions, and the future will depend on what bei beings we make now. if we chew to draw from the western pacific, we could save a lot of money for a while. >> i have two questions. let me share a brief bit about myself. my father was in vietnam in 1968 and wounded in july of 1968. my uncle went to vietnam in 1970
and '# 1. my father was part of americal. my father died of cancer. when -- did secretary mcanamara find out about agent orange? if he did, when? did he do anything about it? my uncle who is still alive, he swears every place they went, they won. and now the war was lost. who is to be blamed? is it secretary mcanamar? who is it? >> well, you were asking about the agent orange. i'm sure he authorized it. i don't think the full consequences were known at the time, unfortunately.
since they've become known, they set up a huge task force. you address the program and try, and it's -- you know, if you're affected personally by it, try doesn't mean a great deal. they have at least tried to remedy some of the worst abuses. but at the time, you know, just came in 5 a gallon drums. we just didn't know that well. there's a whole list, as we pointed out earlier. we have a stab in the back theory that the american public betrayed the military, who was doing fine. you have people who criticize the army generals, the air force generals.
maybe the way to say it is there's an awful lot of blame to go around. and all of us share a that blam blame. >> was he chief of naval operations then? >> his son was in southeast asia. i think it would be the mid and late '70s. zbr over here. then we're going to have steve speak with us for a moment for the reception. >> would the secretary or the others come in on the gestation of the pentagon papers? any personal discussions they may have had on the subject and wlosht they were made public if
they would have influenced the policy. >> he started to work on the pentagon papers well before he left. it was intended as a history of the vietnam war, basically. i think the papers thermss are straight honest and forward the way they've been used by both opponents and defenders is another matter. it was the same sort of thought processes that animated his trips to vietnam in to try to
learn where things went wrong, what might have been done differently. some time in the spring or summer of '67. >> yes. he waned to know, how did we get into this mess. the one problem with the pentagon papers, the department of defense documentation. so you don't know what the white house is saying. you really need that component to appreciate what defense is saying. a lot of times defense is making recommendations. they're just going to recommend th
this. it's one dimensional in that sense. >> i think this has been a very stimulating session of the panel. i would like to thank the three panels and thank you for your questions. now i would like to introduce steve, the director of the vietnam center at texas tech. steve has been a friend to all of us who study and research on the history of the vietnam war. we are vatful to him for his report. steve? >> and steve will close down. >> thank you very much, john. i would like to thank john and john from the historian's office and our distinguished speakers for their wonderful comments today. i don't want to take up too much of your time today for those who heard about the project.
for 23 years dedicated to premoting the study of the war so we can learn more about it and perhaps understand the better the remarkable event. the archives are very modest. we have 25 million pages of his tor call material on the war. and also a virtual archive where we have made available 23 pages of historical text. in the outside area we have brochures. you're all welcomed to pick one up. invite the veterans and other participants in the audience. we would love to have you as a member of our friends and part of our project to preserve and learn on the vietnam war. we are going to be working on future events and look forward
to perhaps working with john and perhaps mr. ferrio and others in the washington, d.c. area. as we look at conferences to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the vietnam war. and for instance, next year in 2013, we hope to host a conference here in washington. we organize nigh an event that will look back on 1963 and pivotal events that occurred in that year. again, we hope to host it here in washington somewhere. i would like to thank our cohosts for the event. our speakers. thank you all for joining us. you're all welcome to join us for the reception outside and enjoy your afternoon.